Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

The D. Landreth Seed Co.
Historical Timeline


1780 David Landreth and family left their home near the Scottish border to establish his seed company in Montréal, Canada.
1781 Landreth seed business started in Montréal, Canada.
1784 David decided Canada was too cold for the nursery business so he left, settled in Philadelphia, and named his company simply, David Landreth.
1789 David Landreth was joined by his brother Cuthbert.
1790 Company name changed to David & Cuthbert Landreth.
1798 Landreth’s introduced the Zinnia from Mexico.
1808 The Osage orange growing along the Osage River was found by the Lewis and Clark expedition and sent to the Landreth Nurseries.
1810 Landreth Farm used the first horse tread machine, which was invented by a man named Robinson in order to drive grain and seed through threshers.
1811 Landreth introduced the first white potato in the United States. All the potatoes before this had a slight, yellowish tinge.
1818 David Landreth 2nd was sent to Charleston, South Carolina in order to establish a branch there.
1820 The first tomatoes were brought into the country and later the first variety of yellow tomatoes were perfected.
1822 Landreth’s Extra Early Pea was introduced.
1826 A new type of spinach was introduced by Landreth’s, which eventually developed into Bloomsdale Spinach.
1828 David Landreth and David the 2nd were among the founders of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society. Both were officers for eight years. David Landreth II also belonged to the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture and served as its president twice.
1830 Company named changed to David Landreth & Co.
1832 David Landreth was the first person to publish the first floral and horticultural magazine in Pennsylvania.
1835 David Landreth Jr. became President of the United States Agricultural Society (remained for several years).
1843 Company became known as David Landreth & D. Landreth Munns.
1845 Company name changed back to David Landreth.
1847 Landreth’s farm moved from Philadelphia to Bloomsdale Farms in Bristol, Bucks County, Pa.
1852 Landreth’s gave Commodore Perry thousands of pounds of American vegetable seeds to take with him on his expedition to Japan. When Perry returned to the United States from Japan, he brought the first Japanese shrubs and plants ever imported into this country to the Landreth Nurseries.
1853 Landreth’s established a machine shop in Bristol for making mowing machines, reapers, plows and corn shellers that were shipped all across the U.S.
1860 Decided to change company name to David Landreth & Son.
1862 Burnet Landreth commissioned as captain in Philadelphia City Militia Regiment.
1865 Purchased Reedland Farm in New Jersey, which is just above Burlington to raise peppers, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash and onion sets.
1868 Purchased a 5,000+ acre plantation on the Rappahannock River in Virginia to grow turnips, rutabaga, cabbage, etc.
1872 Landreth’s was the first to develop a steam-powered tractor for plowing in Pennsylvania.
1875 Name changed to David Landreth & Sons.
1876 Captain Burnet Landreth served as Chief of the Bureau of Agriculture of the Centennial International Exhibition in Philadelphia.
1880 David Landreth II passes away and reins are passed to Burnet and brothers.
1885 William Linton Landreth, second son of Oliver, entered business and continued until he retired in 1902.
1887 Captain Burnet Landreth served as Vice President of the American Exhibition in London.
1890 Company's partners were now Oliver, Burnet and Leopold Landreth.
1897 Captain Burnet Landreth became president of the company. According to Green (1938), Burnett was called "the dean of American seed growers" and was decorated three times by the French government for his work in agriculture.
1903 Company changed its name to D. Landreth Seed Company and incorporated with Burnet as the president in 1904.
1904 Burnett Landreth Jr. and Symington Phillips Landreth (d.1931) became partners.
1906 David Landreth the 4th joined the partnership.
1942 - 2002 The D. Landreth Seed Company was sold to the Supplee-Biddle Hardware Co. in Philadelphia, which later was sold to the Robert Buist Seed Co.  Ownership eventually passed to the Goldberg family and the company was moved to Baltimore, Maryland where it was operated under the Landreth Seed Company name as an East Coast packet seed wholesaler into the late 1990s.  Towards the end, it was little more than a grass seed merchant operating out of a warehouse.(19)
2003 From a letter sent out to past customers, the D. Landreth Seed Company name was purchased by Peter and Barbara Plantholt Melera, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and a venture capitalist, respectively.  They have resurrected the name as a mail order seed company and marketing as the "Oldest Seed House in America."

500 catalogs distributed.(15)

2004 2,500 catalogs distributed.(15)  Launches a web site in February.(16)
2005 According to an interview in the Baltimore Business Journal, at the time of purchase, revenues hovered around $250,000. As of the article date, Melera said sales reached $500,000.

According to Melera, even at a $500K sales level, the company still wasn't turning a profit. To date, she was feeding the company with her own money, a loan from Sun Trust and a small loan from the Baltimore Development Corporation.

Jeffrey P. Pillas, CFO for the Baltimore Development Corp., said the BDC gladly gave the company a $40,000, five-year loan at a 5 percent interest rate. "Good management, nice lady who has a lot of business experience," Pillas said. "In my view, it’s well worth the risk."

The company has five employees and she plans to add more. "I would like for the company not to be gigantic," she said. "But I would like to be a substantial presence in the Baltimore area as a blue-collar manufacturing house."

Web site accounts for 23 to 30% of the business.(16) 10,000 catalogs distributed.(15)  Expecting to increase distribution to 25,000 catalogs in 2006.(14)

2006 Although part of the original statements were a desire to become a "substantial Baltimore area as a blue-collar manufacturing house," in the Spring of 2006 the company moves, closer to its original location, to New Freedom, PA.(18)
2010 The company celebrates its 225th anniversary.  Barb Melera has rebuilt the company and has returned it to its root as a supplier of home garden seed packets.(19)  Since purchasing the company in 2003, the customer base has grown from 350 grass seed customers, to nearly 4,000 traditional gardening customers.(20)
2011 Barbara Melera sends out a letter through Facebook discussing a lawsuit and debt that potentially will end the company.  A plea of help goes out to gardeners and anyone interested in saving this piece of horticultural history.(21)
2013 The company moves into the former Thunder Customs building on Route 10 in Sharon Springs, New York. Initially leasing the space, Ms. Melera stated that they expected to purchase the property in December, 2014, ". . . after a lawsuit involving investors is finally put to bed."(22)
2016 Listed at auction on May 16, 2016, the company and its brand-related and seed packaging assets were acquired by American Meadows, Inc.(24) Other physical assets were sold at auction.(23)
2017 Although a new website and a very limited assortment of seeds is being offered for 2017, American Meadows, Inc. is working to fully re-launch the brand for the 2018 gardening season.(24)

You can find them on the web at landrethseeds.com.


Sources:

  1. The Third Hundred Years
  2. The Old Times Old Seed Catalogs
  3. University of Delaware - The Art of Botanical Illustration
  4. "Landreth, Cuthbert;" Dictionary of American Biography, Under the Auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies...  New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1928-58.
  5. "Landreth, David;" Dictionary of American Biography, Under the Auspices of the American Council of Learned Societies...  New York: C. Scribner's Sons, 1928-58.
  6. History of Horticulture - Landreth, David 18th Century
  7. History of Horticulture - Landreth, David, Jr.
  8. Landreth Family Genealogy Page
  9. University of Maryland, Medical Biotechnology Center Faculty List
  10. http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/vtpubs/spectrum/sp980122/3c.html
  11. http:/www.nasulgc.org/publications/crpge/session1.html
  12. http://www.state.de.us/dedo/news/1996/agritech.htm
  13. Brainbench Board of Directors - Bio of Barbara Melera
  14. "Visions of Vintage Vegetables," The Washington Post, March 20, 2004.
  15. "Seed Mailer Thrives Under New Owners," MultiChannel Merchant, January 5, 2006.
  16. "Circulation Blossoms for Seed Catalog" - DM News, March 20, 2006.
  17. "Back to nature: VC expert grows business seed by seed", Baltimore Business Journal, 2005.
  18. D. Landreth Seed Company 2007 Catalog
  19. "Seed seller gets a second chance," by Ginny Smith, The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 16, 2010.
  20. "Future taking root," by Ginny Smith, The Philadelphia Inquirer, November 29, 2009
  21. D. Landreth Seed Co. needs help..., September 2, 2011
  22. "Historic seed house moves into Sharon Springs," December 24, 2013, Times Journal, Cobleskill, NY
  23. Collar City Auction, May 16, 2016
  24. Email correspondence with Ethan Platt, president of American Meadows, Inc., January 18, 2016.

 

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